However high we climb in the pursuit of knowledge we shall still see heights above us, and the more we extend our view, the more conscious we shall be of the immensity which lies beyond.
Sir William George Armstrong
I was reminded of this quote just now as I did a final word count check on my last assignment for my first academic year of my professional doctorate. The word count came in at the perfect number and I am happy with the content – a product that is ‘submittable’ even though the deadline is still 4 days away.
I should be jumping for joy, heading out into the sun with glee but I feel a sharp sense of ‘oh, is that it?’.
There are about 10 library books and lots more of my own around me on the floor. The books were there to ‘get to grips with’ but with the exception of a couple I’ve really only dipped in. This last assignment was on research design – what started out as (in my mind) a simple quantitative or qualitative (learn one or the other) is now a massive landscape of different traditions (see this post). How do I know I am giving each enough attention in my learning? What if I miss ‘the’ one that may be helpful? What if I misunderstand because all I can do is skim? I thought – naively – that the module and the assignment would give me a full understanding of the whole ‘menu’ and all their ingredients – instead it has just opened the door to the restaurant (and a fusion restaurant at that!).
And that’s just the research ‘theory and practice’ side of the doctorate – if I turn to the substantive public health ‘theory and practice’ this too has just got bigger and bigger all year. I’m dipping into policy theory; urban geography; epidemiology; community development – public health is achieved through the appropriate use of all these research and practice disciplines. I know where my interest keeps steering me – into the area of healthy public policy – but I don’t want to look at that to the exclusion of the wider field.
It’s a great adventure, don’t get me wrong and I’m really enjoying these ever expanding possibilities in spite of the immensity of it all. But in less than a year, I’ll need to have homed in – drawn a boundary – carved out my research topic, my question and the supporting research traditions that are most appropriate to me gaining helpful insights. I hope I feel ready to do that.